Jun 21, 2010
Linda Chamberlain PhD, MPH
Birth control sabotage. Pregnancy coercion.Â Reproductive coercion. This emerging terminology has expanded our understanding of the range of controlling and abusive behaviors related to reproductive health.Â These behaviors, which can limit a woman’s ability to make choices about her reproductive health and sexuality, may occur in the absence of physical violence-a reality that underscores the importance of looking beyond the more obvious indicators of abuse (such as injuries) to understand the impact of victimization.
The topic of reproductive health and violence is not new.Â There is a significant and growing body of publications that describes the connections between intimate partner violence (including dating violence) and unintended pregnancies, teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV (STIs/HIV), and other adverse health outcomes.Â Â Recent studies have provided a more in-depth understanding of the range of behaviors that can influence reproductive health.Â Â This has led to a new focus area within the field of intimate partner violence that is frequently referred to as reproductive coercion.Â Â Reproductive coercion involves behaviors that a partner uses to maintain power and control in a relationship that are related to reproductive health.Â Interfering with a woman’s birth control (birth control sabotage), threats or acts of violence if a woman does not comply with a partner’s wishes about whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy (pregnancy coercion), and accusations of being unfaithful if a woman asks her partner to use a condom (condom coercion) are examples of reproductive coercion.
This issue of Family Violence Prevention and Health Practice is dedicated to the topic of reproductive health and violence.Â Topics addressed in this issue range from the intersection of sex trade, violence, and health to how gender norms can influence women’s sexual relationship power and ability to negotiate for safe sex. Promising practices described in this issue include a health department’s statewide initiative to implement training on intimate partner violence, reproductive coercion, and sexual assault, the process of implementing and enhancing screening in family planning centers, and an innovative partnership to provide reproductive health services on-site at a domestic violence shelter.Â You will also hear about the recent launch of Project Connect, a multi-state initiative on reproductive health and violence.
This issue coincides with the introduction of several new resources that address reproductive health and violence.Â The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) has just released an updated Public Health Toolkit, a free training resource that includes PowerPoint presentations, speakers’ notes, and a bibliography.Â This updated version of the toolkit has added new chapters and expanded existing chapters on topics related to reproductive health and violence.Â At www.endabuse.org, you will find posters and safety cards on reproductive coercion in both English and Spanish.Â A quality improvement tool that can be used to assess and monitor progress in addressing reproductive health and violence in the clinical setting is also available at the same website.Â Later this summer, the FVPF will release another toolkit.Â This toolkit, which focuses on reproductive health and violence, is designed for the reproductive health care setting.Â The toolkit provides guidelines for responding to reproductive coercion and includes scripted assessment tools and other resources.Â We look forward to your feedback and encourage you to contact us with your comments, recommendations, and insights.